Patent 11188191 - Vehicle diagnostic systems and methods > Description
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 16/802,705, filed Feb. 27, 2020, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 16/186,038, filed Nov. 9, 2018 and issued as U.S. Pat. No. 10,606,445 on Mar. 31, 2020, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/339,087, filed Oct. 31, 2016 and issued as U.S. Pat. No. 10,156,960 on Dec. 18, 2018, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/522,716, filed Oct. 24, 2014 and issued as U.S. Pat. No. 9,513,789 on Dec. 6, 2016, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/895,283, filed on Oct. 24, 2013. The entire disclosures of these applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.
Example embodiments of the present invention relate generally to vehicle maintenance and, more particularly, to a method, apparatus, and computer program product for improving the process of diagnosing and repairing vehicles.
Applicant has discovered problems with current vehicle diagnostic tools. Through applied effort, ingenuity, and innovation, many problems with existing diagnostic tools, methodologies, and systems are solved by the present invention, which is described in detail below.
A number of challenges are currently experienced by today's technicians. These challenges include limitations of current diagnostic hardware utilized within repair facilities, repair information lacking interactivity, and the challenge of maintaining many diagnostic tools, each having their own information sources. In short, technicians need to subscribe to multiple PC-based repair information sources, and must use multiple diagnostic tools each having their own information sources, resulting in subscription-fee fatigue.
For access to repair information through desktop PCs and laptops, sub-optimal behavior is common. Repair facilities often utilize one or two stand-alone units that technicians are allowed to share. The result is lost productivity due to technicians having to form a line to use the units and due to technicians having to traverse the shop floor to utilize this repair information source, and then having to walk back to the repair bay. In some instances technicians are required to print and then carry the required procedures to the bay, which does not leave room for error, or ease of access to additional follow-up information. Although laptops are slightly more convenient, technicians experience the same issue of having to share a limited number of laptops. In addition, technicians tend to have limited flat space to access laptops within a repair bay. A common result is that the technician must precariously balance the laptop while trying to navigate repair information.
For diagnostic tools, it has become increasingly common for repair facilities to support a multitude of devices, each having its own associated fees and software (including concomitant software/firmware updates). These systems vary from entry-level hand-held scan devices, to OE level diagnostic scanners. Each such system, however, is disconnected from the others, and there is no centralized data store that conveniently collates data from all sources. Moreover, most such systems are disconnected from any web-based information source entirely, and consequently introduce inconvenience into the process of gathering relevant information.
Similarly, prior art systems typically require separate tools for the different manufacturers. Accordingly, a need exists for a tool that provides access to information from multiple OEM manufacturers, rather than only some subset thereof.
For web-based repair information access, current systems are designed for technicians to manually enter vehicle year, make, model, and engine (YMME) information, and then follow repair procedures, with no interactivity. In other words, current web-based information retrieval systems follow a simplistic paradigm that is prone to data entry errors.
All of the above problems contribute to repair inefficiency in repair facilities and produce negative impacts on profit margin, repair speed, and cost to consumers.
To address some of these weaknesses of current shop platforms, a method, apparatus, and computer program product are provided in accordance with example embodiments of the present invention to improve the diagnosis and repair of vehicles. Embodiments of the present invention offer the convenience, reliability, durability, and low operational cost of current tablet application technology. Embodiments of the present invention further offer the ability to transport repair information anywhere as needed (avoiding the inconvenience of immobile stand-alone units), and offer expanded functionality not otherwise available through devices (e.g., laptops) that are not easily carried or handled in a repair bay. Moreover, embodiments of the present invention leverage tablet technology by providing expanded functionality not available through traditional web browsers, and providing a touchscreen-enabled user interface (UI) having repair information types laid out within an easy-to-use grid format.
In addition, using embodiments of the present invention, technicians are able to connect to vehicles through the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port of a vehicle, automatically read vehicle identification number (VIN) information, and retrieve relevant repair information and identify diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs, or “codes”) as part of an initial diagnostic process. This functionality bridges the gap between repair information and vehicle connectivity. Moreover, using OBD parameter IDs (i.e., PIDs, such as those defined in the SAE J1979 standard, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety) to request data from a vehicle, embodiments of the present invention are able to retrieve corresponding DTCs (such as p-codes, a particular type of code), correlate these codes to specific repair articles, and store either the codes, the repair articles, or both, within a user's account in conjunction with the affected vehicle's VIN.
Embodiments of the present invention provide repair information served through the convenience, reliability, durability, and low operational cost of tablet application technology. In this regard, the present invention may enable technicians to transport repair information anywhere as needed, with expanded functionality not available through traditional systems, thus mitigating the need to wait in lines to access terminals. Accordingly, embodiments of the present invention may overcome inefficiencies of traditional vehicle maintenance systems, and provide a competitive advantage to maintenance facilities.
The above summary is provided merely for purposes of summarizing some example embodiments to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the invention. The above-described embodiments are merely examples and should not be construed to narrow the scope or spirit of the invention in any way. It will be appreciated that the scope of the present invention encompasses many potential embodiments including those here summarized, some of which will be further described below.
Having thus described certain example embodiments of the present disclosure in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:
Some embodiments of the present invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all embodiments of the inventions are shown. Indeed, these inventions may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will satisfy applicable legal requirements. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.
As used herein, the terms “data,” “content,” “information,” and similar terms may be used interchangeably to refer to data capable of being transmitted, received, and/or stored in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. Thus, use of any such terms should not be taken to limit the spirit and scope of embodiments of the present invention. Further, where a computing device is described herein to receive data from another computing device, it will be appreciated that the data may be received directly from the another computing device or may be received indirectly via one or more intermediary computing devices, such as, for example, one or more servers, relays, routers, network access points, base stations, hosts, and/or the like, sometimes referred to herein as a “network.” Similarly, where a computing device is described herein to send data to another computing device, it will be appreciated that the data may be sent directly to the another computing device or may be sent indirectly via one or more intermediary computing devices, such as, for example, one or more servers, relays, routers, network access points, base stations, hosts, and/or the like.
Server 104 may comprise a web server connected to the Internet, and may comprise several constituent elements. For instance, server 104 may include one or more databases storing partnered diagnostic data, VIN/YMME data, repair data (such as repair instructions, information regarding DTCs, p-codes, or the like), and historical data regarding one or more OEM manufacturers, one or more users, or one or more vehicles. By storing a comprehensive set of information, these databases mitigate the traditional problem in which multiple tools are required to gather information for different manufacturers, and enables repair facilities to replace multiple tools with a single tool. Similarly, by reducing reliance on a multitude of tools, embodiments of the present invention may mitigate the problem of subscriber-fee fatigue.
The system shown in
The computing device 102 may be embodied by a computing system, such as apparatus 200 shown in
The processor 202 may be embodied in a number of different ways and may, for example include one or more processing devices configured to perform independently. Additionally or alternatively, the processor may include one or more processors configured in tandem via a bus to enable independent execution of instructions, pipelining, and/or multithreading.
In an example embodiment, the processor 202 may be configured to execute instructions stored in the memory 204 or otherwise accessible to the processor. Alternatively or additionally, the processor may be configured to execute hard-coded functionality. As such, whether configured by hardware or software methods, or by a combination thereof, the processor may represent an entity (e.g., physically embodied in circuitry) capable of performing operations according to an embodiment of the present invention while configured accordingly. Alternatively, as another example, when the processor is embodied as an executor of software instructions, the instructions may specifically configure the apparatus 200 to cause the processor to execute the algorithms and/or operations described herein.
In some embodiments, the apparatus 200 may include a user interface 206 that may, in turn, be in communication with processor 202 to provide output to the user and to receive an indication of a user input. The user interface 206 may include a display and may comprise a web user interface, a mobile application, a client device, a kiosk, or the like. In some embodiments, the user interface 206 may also include a keyboard, a mouse, a joystick, a touchscreen, touch areas, soft keys, a microphone, a speaker, a camera, or other input/output mechanisms. The processor and/or user interface circuitry comprising the processor may be configured to control one or more functions of one or more user interface elements through computer program instructions (e.g., software and/or firmware) stored on a memory accessible to the processor (e.g., memory 204, and/or the like).
Meanwhile, the communication module 208 may be any device or circuitry embodied in either hardware or a combination of hardware and software that is configured to receive and/or transmit data to or from a server 104 in communication with the apparatus 200. In this regard, the communication module 208 may include, for example, an antenna (or multiple antennas) and supporting hardware and/or software for enabling communications with a wireless communication network. Additionally or alternatively, the communication module 208 may include the circuitry for interacting with the antenna(s) to cause transmission of signals via the antenna(s) or to handle receipt of signals received via the antenna(s). In some environments, the communication module 208 may additionally or alternatively support wired communication. As such, for example, the communication module 208 may include a modem and/or other hardware/software for supporting communication via cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), universal serial bus (USB), or other mechanisms. The communication module 208 may additionally send and retrieve data from peripheral devices such as a printer or point-of-sale terminal (not shown in
In some embodiments, the apparatus 200 may further include vehicle interface 210, which is configured to enable communication between the apparatus 200 and a vehicle's on-board circuitry via the vehicle's OBD port 110. The vehicle interface 210 may in some embodiments comprise adaptor 106, as described above. Alternatively, the vehicle interface 210 may comprise a component configured to communicate with adaptor 106 via a wired/wireless connection, as described above. Accordingly, vehicle interface 210 enables communication between the apparatus 200 and a vehicle, in close proximity or remotely.
Server 104 may also be embodied by a computing system such as apparatus 200 illustrated in
Server 104 need not include vehicle interface 210, and in some embodiments may not communicate directly with a vehicle. In such embodiments, server 104 may function as a database that can be queried via communication module 208 (e.g., by computing device 102) and may provide information relevant to particular queries, such as repair instructions relevant to specific DTCs, or related to particular users or vehicles (e.g., by uploading related DTC information to a computing device 102 upon login by a particular user or connection of the computing device 102 to a particular vehicle). Alternatively, in some embodiments, server 104 may itself include a vehicle interface 210, and may accordingly be configured to retrieve data from a vehicle irrespective of the operation of a computing device 102. Server 104 may accordingly retrieve and store DTCs for subsequent reference or download by computing device 102 or merely for storage as historical data. Similarly, server 104 may locate information relevant to retrieved DTCs for efficient retrieval upon request by computing device 102. In yet another alternative, in some embodiments computing device 102 and server 104 may comprise a single system or device including vehicle interface 210. In some such embodiments, the combined system may comprise a sufficiently powerful device usable by a technician.
Server 104 may further perform additional tasks related to vehicle diagnostics and repair. For instance, by collecting historical data (e.g., user information, vehicle information, and DTCs associated with particular users and/or vehicles over time), server 104 may, in some embodiments, mine the collected data to develop diagnostic predictions based on the historical data and statistically significant correlations between various elements of the historical data. For instance, server 104 may determine likely problems for a first vehicle based on historical DTC information of similarly situated vehicles, and in this regard may identify problems endemic to particular vehicle years, makes, models, engines, or even manufacturers. Server 104 may determine estimates of when, during a vehicle's lifetime, DTCs are likely to occur, and may identify combinations of DTCs that frequently occur together, and may even, in some embodiments, identify statistically significant correlations between DTC information and particular users or regions, or even seasonal changes in DTC occurrences. In some embodiments, the server 104 may transmit such information to computing device 102 in response to receiving, from the computing device 102, user identifying information, vehicle information (e.g., VIN or YMME), or any sequence of information suggesting the relevance of such statistical data.
As noted above, a method, apparatus, and computer program product are provided in accordance with example embodiments of the present invention to improve the diagnosis and repair of vehicles. Embodiments of the present invention offer the convenience, reliability, durability, and low operational cost of current tablet application technology. Embodiments of the present invention further offer the ability to transport repair information anywhere as needed (thus avoiding the inconvenience of immobile stand-alone units), and offer expanded functionality not otherwise available through devices (e.g., laptops) that are not easily carried or handled in a repair bay. By providing the technician with a tablet device, embodiments of the present invention may eliminate the problem of having to precariously balance a laptop on the small or uneven surfaces within a repair facility. Moreover, embodiments of the present invention leverage tablet technology by providing expanded functionality not available through traditional web browsers, and providing a touchscreen-enabled user interface (UI) having repair information types laid out within an easy-to-use grid format.
To streamline the process of diagnosing and repairing vehicles, embodiments of the present invention execute software stored on computing device 102. This software may enable technicians to quickly and accurately identify vehicles, locate DTCs corresponding to potential vehicle faults, and retrieve information relevant to diagnosing problems and repairing them. In this regard, the application software may include three types of operation: (1) reading/saving/clearing standard DTCs (including linking to associated articles from server 104) via interfaces including the SAE J2534-2 standard, emissions monitoring checks, displaying data from a number of on-board modules in a variety of formats (list, graph, etc.), and providing access to non-powertrain protocols (e.g., ABS, SRS, BCM); (2) reading/saving/clearing DTCs related to powertrain (ECM, PCM, TCM), including chassis and body systems; and (3) bi-directional testing, adapting, coding, and programming of vehicle on-board circuitry (e.g., using the SAE J2534-2 standard).
Initially, computing device 102 may establish a connection, via adaptor 106, with OBD port 110 of a vehicle. This may occur in at least three distinct ways. As shown in
In another such embodiment, the computing device 102 may connect to adaptor 106 (e.g., an OBDLink MX, shown in
For instance, the descriptive information corresponding to each adaptor may identify the physical locations of each of the adaptors. By selecting the appropriate icon representing an adaptor, a user can cause the computing device to establish a connection with the adaptor based on this physical location. See, for example, the user interface shown in
Turning now to
Turning now to
A successful connection is shown in
In some embodiments, the technician may be able to select a “Vehicle DTCs” tab or “Vehicle DTC History” tab, as shown in
To view specific PID information while connected to the vehicle (which in some embodiments comprises real-time sensor data retrieved from the vehicle via vehicle interface 210), the technician may either select the “Sensors” button shown in
In some embodiments, the technician may change the vehicle under evaluation. In one such embodiment described above, by selecting the “connect” button, the VIN and YMME information of a currently-connected vehicle may be retrieved, via a vehicle interface 210, from the adaptor 106, and that vehicle's data may be automatically selected. Alternatively, by selecting the “Change Vehicle” button within the “Current Vehicle” frame in the left column on the main screen (highlighted in
Moreover, the technician may access specific repair information from the main screen by either selecting a specific system or the vehicle button within the center column (highlighted in
Supported information types are represented by icons and defined within the header with their associated label, as shown in
By navigating through the folders and icons presented iteratively via a frame such as that illustrated in
Using this navigation functionality, a technician may be served relevant repair information and identify diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) as part of an initial diagnostic process. As noted above, this functionality accordingly bridges the gap between repair information products and vehicle connectivity products. Moreover, using OBD PIDs, embodiments of the present invention are able to correlate received codes to specific repair articles, and store either the codes, the repair articles, or both, in association with a user account and the affected vehicle's VIN.
Although a particular example interfaces are described above, it will be understood that these descriptions are for example only, and the location, size, shape, and other characteristics of the above user interface elements may be changed or modified without departing from the spirit of this invention.
Accordingly, embodiments of the present invention provide repair information with the convenience, reliability, durability, and low operational cost of tablet application technology. Further, the present invention enables technicians to transport repair information anywhere as needed, with expanded functionality not available through traditional systems. Finally, embodiments of the present invention overcome the inefficiencies of traditional vehicle maintenance systems, and provide a competitive advantage to maintenance facilities.
As will be appreciated, computer program code and/or other instructions may be loaded onto a computer, processor or other programmable apparatus's circuitry to produce a machine, such that execution of the code on the machine by the computer, processor, or other circuitry creates the means for implementing various functions, including those described herein.
As described above and as will be appreciated based on this disclosure, embodiments of the present invention may be configured as methods, mobile devices, backend network devices, and the like. Accordingly, embodiments may comprise various means including entirely of hardware or a combination of software and hardware. Furthermore, embodiments may take the form of a computer program product on at least one computer-readable storage medium having computer-readable program instructions (e.g., computer software) embodied in the storage medium. Any suitable computer-readable storage medium may be utilized, including non-transitory hard disks, CD-ROMs, flash memory, optical storage devices, magnetic storage devices, or the like.
Embodiments of the present invention have been described above with reference to block diagrams and other illustrations of methods, apparatuses, systems and computer program products. It will be understood that each block of the diagrams and process illustrations, and combinations of blocks in the circuit diagrams and process illustrations, respectively, can be implemented by various means including computer program instructions. These computer program instructions may be loaded onto a general purpose computer, special purpose computer, or other programmable data processing apparatus to produce a machine, such that the computer program product includes the instructions which execute on the computer or other programmable data processing apparatus create a means for implementing the functions specified in the flowchart block or blocks.
These computer program instructions may also be stored in a computer-readable storage device that can direct a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to function in a particular manner, such that the instructions stored in the computer-readable storage device produce an article of manufacture including computer-readable instructions for implementing the function discussed herein. The computer program instructions may also be loaded onto a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to cause a series of operational steps to be performed on the computer or other programmable apparatus, thereby producing a computer-implemented process such that the instructions executed on the computer or other programmable apparatus cause performance of the steps and thereby implement the functions discussed herein.
Accordingly, constituent elements of the block diagrams and illustrations support combinations of means for performing the specified functions, combinations of steps for performing the specified functions and program instruction means for performing the specified functions. It will also be understood that each block of the circuit diagrams and process illustrations, and combinations of blocks in the circuit diagrams and process illustrations, can be implemented by special purpose hardware-based computer systems that perform the specified functions or steps, or combinations of special purpose hardware and computer instructions.
Many modifications and other embodiments of the inventions set forth herein will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which these embodiments of the invention pertain having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the embodiments of the invention are not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.